Most Influential Philosophers Selection Methodology

| TBS Staff

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<>It’s no surprise that a listing of the most influential philosophers would receive methodology questions. So, here’s some insight into how we conducted our research and formulated our list.

There are numerous tools available to try to determine a person or group’s influence. In our quest to find the most influential living philosophers, we ran citation analysis as described in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s “Measuring Your Impact: Impact Factor, Citation Analysis, and other Metrics: Citation Analysis.” We also used tools like and determine traffic to faculty pages, and other pages about specific philosophers. We used these and similar tools to also tally youtube videos views and social media accounts by and/or about the people of interest to get a sense of what kind of fanbase each person might have. Additionally, we tested a research tool developed by Their tool is many months away from being the tool they want to make public, but if manually “aimed” and analyzed, it was able to provide additional insight. (It’s an exciting research tool to say the least.)

Return to The 50 Most Influential Living Philosophers.

But, at the end of the day, tools like these have their limits, relying too heavily on a few objective measures. Even combining and performing meta-rankings of the outputs of the tools referenced, and those not, we don’t believe these tools can paint an accurate picture of the landscape that pays attention to significant nuances. There is a need for expert analysis.

Therefore, in addition to consulting tools that can scan and scrap data, we consulted with numerous philosophers to deal with influence in a less objective, but more delicate way. This is where creating an article like this gets very tricky. We believe that objective measures are great to a certain extent, but the tools we have available don’t do enough to show how an influential person might heavily impact a branch of philosophy, but still not be popular enough to compete with other scholars who more well-known in general, but are secondary or tertiary influences in their larger fields. In other words, to give appropriate attention to the diversity of niches in philosophy, we wanted to find the big fish in ponds of various sizes, thus ultimately creating a stratified list.

We hope that philosophers will appreciate our attempt to find the right balance between the art and science of this kind of ranking, especially on something like influence. It’s our backgrounds in philosophy that have made us not rely solely on objective measures. But with numerous Philosophy Ph.D.s weighing in, we think we made a pretty fair list. We’ll admit that we leaned toward analytic philosophy, but within that broad category, we were sensitive to several specializations.

The Real Point of the Influential Philosophers Artilce

Since our publication was promoted we’ve received questions about why some people are missing, and why others are included. Hopefully the statements above help answer such questions. But we really don’t want the bigger picture to be missed. We spent nearly a year working to create this article because we believe that the humanities are unjustly under attack in (especially) American culture and American higher education.

Return to The 50 Most Influential Living Philosophers.

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